REVIEW – Holy is jumping Zombie Dom! What’s Gears of War 4 on a PS4 review site?! Settle down kids; this is not the end of the world. However since Sony had its big return with Uncharted 4, we have decided to give Microsoft’s exclusive franchise a whirl, and after completing all three mainline games (Apparently everybody hates GOW: Judgement), which were a lot of fun, to prepare for the first entry of a new trilogy.
Gears of War 4 at first sounds like a forced entry to a neatly closed of series, and with Judgement being so badly received, my initial impression of the reveal was pessimistic. The E3 trailers also did not provide too much confidence as some of the gameplay shown off felt gimmicky and I feared that the game would rely too much on these mechanics. After many months of waiting finally, it is here, Gears of War 4, and it is safe to say that after all the pessimism and doubt, I am positively surprised.
The game takes place twenty-five years after Gears of War 3, with the Locust dead, humanity is slowly rebuilding. Due to Adam Fenix’s last ditch effort, the deadly Locust have been defeated, but with that also humanity’s fuel source was also killed off, as Imulsion was rendered useless. Humanity also barely survived the wars against The Locust, so the Coalition of Governments decides to shelter humanity in settlements, and declares Martial-Law, not allowing anyone outside of these settlements. We play as J.D.
Fenix son of famed war veteran Marcus Fenix, who is joined by his friends Del, and Kait to raid a Settlement for a fabricator to power their outsider village. J.D. is a COG that went AWOL due to an incident involving a former settlement. It is a lot to take regarding the story, but the game handles it rather well. We do not need to read any comic books or actual prequel books to get the full narrative (looking at you Gears 3); instead, this sequel provides rather well-paced dialogue and exposition. The first mission of the game is a great way for new players to experience the overall history of Gears of War, it takes snippets of the lore, and the player gets to play through them.
The story of Gears of War 4 is also much more restrained but still, has its big memorable blockbuster type encounters that the fans are all familiar. However here there is no epic war going. Instead, it shows how a society tries to rebuild, and how the old character fits in with the new world. Some were able to cope with the peace after the war on Seras, others have been not so lucky. It is a neat story; that is cut too short by the actual idea of being part of a sequel trilogy. The fight leading up to the ending is the most Pacific Rim thing I have seen in a video game, but the ending, unfortunately, is not the best and left me wanting for more.
Still, it is a good story, with some interesting twists, and the fans of the series will enjoy it from beginning to the (sorta) end of it.
Gears of Binary Domain
The enemy variety of Gears 4 is a bit weird. In the first two acts, we fight against DBs, robots that are controlled by the COG. As human population is small, these robots are used from construction to combat and scouting the world. Then we have The Swarm, aka the new enemy threat that everybody will have to hide in this game. Both opposition factions have their light, medium, and heavy hitters. However, both factions have individual units, which make the gameplay tougher. The COG has Guardians, small flying drones that are shielded, plus they have miniguns and rockets at their disposal.
The Kesler is a helicopter that is an upgraded Guardian drone but lacks a shield and has two miniguns attached. The rest of the COG is pretty straightforward regarding enemies; they have sniper units, heavy shotgunners that have weapons dubbed: Overkill (four barrelled auto shotgun), and the usual cannon fodder units with simple machine guns. They felt a lot like enemies for Binary Domain; the only difference is that there the enemy robots did not shout what they were going doing to do next.
Once the Swarm takes over the meat of the game, the enemy variety luckily gets better. We first encounter Juvies, small shrieking fast running zombies, Drones that are similar to Locus ones, and then we have giant hulks like Carriers, or the Snatcher, that after downing the player will try to carry it away from the map. We also have Scions that when screaming power up the nearby Swarm units, giving them more damage output and armor.
On higher difficulties, most of the enemies will feel bullet spongy, so if you do not have the patience, I would recommend starting from ordinary.
Regarding weaponry not much has changed from the previous games. We do have some newcomers like the Drop Shot, a flying bomb that drills into a person’s head, or the buzzkill which shoots giant buzzsaws, but other than that we have some slight variations on smgs, snipers. While Gears 4 is lacking in new weapons, it does make up for it with its fortification weapons. Certain parts of the campaign you will have to defend an objective, and the game will allow you to build up turrets, sentry guns, shock posts, and even barbed wire defenses. These defense sections are great, tense, and overall well spaced out in the campaign that it does not become repetitive or boring.
Gears of War has a truckload of weapons already, but maybe a few unique ones would have been great to introduce for the latest entry. They do their job fine but lack the unique awesomeness.
Cover, and beautiful storms
The gameplay of Gears 4 remains virtually untouched from the previous entries. Instead of The Locust we have The Swarm, we do not have Emergence Holes but have Hive Nests, and we still use chest high cover to survive the daily battles. The developers did add a tiny bit of depth to the gameplay, as there are now massive wind flares on the planet of Sera, so now the wind can influence are rockets and grenades. We can also dislodge indeed parts of the terrain so that the enemy gets squashed by them. We also have lightning flurries, that are giant walls of electricity that zigzag across the level, that we have to avoid. Out of all the new ideas, the lightning wall was the most annoying one for me, and the game could have done without those sections.
The storm part of the game is both deadly and beautiful, and the HDR is a game changer regarding how lighting and color depth is shown. The flames, explosions, and other effects are unbelievably rich and detailed, and so are the characters. It was interesting to see a series made fun off being the dark, gray shooter, to be one of the most colorful shooters of 2016. The enemies are not a mesh of gray either, but rather reddish, or silver when it comes to the droids. Gears 4 has stunning graphics, and sound design is one of the best of 2016 (only topped by Battlefield 1 this year). The environments are varied and put a spin on the usual franchise since it is not a grayish, or charred hellhole of a city. We have lush jungles, dry river beds, and old mines, that full of infected organisms.
Sadly not everything is awesome, as some of the textures look low-resolution, and the effects are also while high, in particular situations, will end up looking horrible. The fiery tornado in one cutscene looks great, but in another, it is just one big mesh of low polygon mess. Most of the indoor locations are spectacular, but the outside locations are not the best and show how weak the console is.
In the end, Gears of War 4 looks stunning, and runs great, even if there are few bad spots.
Return to form, and to bloodshed
Gears of War 4 is a good sequel, and it warrants its existence and is not a cash-in sequel. While it does not reinvent the wheel, it does provide a blockbuster experience, with fun new characters, and some old returning ones. The multiplayer is okay, but sadly the microtransactions have impacted Horde mode in a negative way. The game also provides four player, co-op, and a 50 Wave Horde mode, plus the usual modes for multiplayer. The Coalition will update the game with events for the multiplayer, but news of the over reliance of Card packs has sabotaged the repute of the title.
The campaign can be finished in about 5-8 hours depending on difficulty, and the multiplayer is a blast, besides the transaction issues. It is an epic adventure, but one that is cut too short, by the idea of setting up a trilogy. It has a definite, and but I wish it were at least 2 or 4 hours more.
+ HDR, and great graphics
+ Interesting story (albeit cut short with the end)
+ Fun multiplayer…
– …that is plagued by microtransactions
– Can look ugly at times
– No interesting weapons
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Release date: Oct 11, 2016